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      Gaddafi on State TV: I’m in Tripoli

      Libyan leader dispels rumors that he has fled the country to Venezuela. Meanwhile, his diplomats renounce the violent acts towards protesters.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 2/22/2011, 3:20 AM / Last Update: 2/22/2011, 3:11 AM

      Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi appeared on state television overnight Monday, dispelling rumors that he had fled the country to Venezuela amidst protests calling for him to step down.

      “I am in Tripoli and not in Venezuela,” Gaddafi said during the 40-second appearance in which he was seen under a large umbrella, leaning out of the front seat of a van.

      “I want to have some rest,” CNN quoted the Libyan dicator as having told a reporter during the appearance. “Because I was talking to the young man at Green Square, and I want to stay the night with them but then it started raining. I want to show them that I am in Tripoli, not in Venezuela. Don't believe those dogs in the media.”

      Gaddafi’s television appearance came following another day of bloody violence on the streets of Libya. On Monday, Libyan protesters stormed Tripoli and set government buildings on fire, while Gaddafi’s forces, aided by mercenaries, continued to violently shoot down the protesters.

      Meanwhile, the United States released a travel warning to Libya on Monday and called on all its citizens to leave the country immediately. The State Department also ordered the evacuation of all non-essential workers from the U.S. embassy in Libya, as well as the families of its diplomats there.

      Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned on Monday evening the violence used by the Libyan regime against the demonstrators.

      “We must put an end to this bloodshed that is not acceptable,” said Clinton, adding that the Libyan government should respect the universal rights of its citizens.

      Libyan diplomats renounce Gaddafi
      As the violent protests continued in Libya, its own diplomats throughout the world renounced Gaddafi.

      Among those who broke with the Libyan leader were members of Libya’s mission to the United Nations, who renounced Gaddafi and called him a genocidal war criminal. The diplomats called upon him to resign.

      “We are sure that what is going on now in Libya is crimes against humanity and crimes of war,” The New York Times quoted the deputy permanent Libyan representative, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who spoke to reporters at a news conference at the mission’s headquarters in New York.

      The UN representatives joined Libya's representative to the Arab League, who had also tendered his resignation in protest of what he called the “oppression against protesters.” Other Libyan diplomats who have resigned in protest of Gaddafi’s behavior include the Ambassador to India as well as the Ambassador to China.

      In addition to the diplomats, it has been reported that many Libyan military forces have also abandoned Gaddafi and have sided with the protesters. These include two Libyan air force colonels, piloting two Mirage F1 fighter jets, who arrived in Malta and asked for political asylum after being ordered to bomb protesters.

      Al-Jazeera reported late Monday evening that a group of Libyan army officers had issued a statement calling on the soldiers “to join the people” and assist in the efforts to topple the regime. According to the report, the officers called on their fellow soldiers to march towards the capital Tripoli in protest.